Top 10 Signs Climate Change Is Worse Than Ever

Top 10 Signs Climate Change Is Worse Than Ever

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Written by Aaron Cameron

Climate change is taking a serious toll on the planet earth, and whether is man-made or as a result of natural causes, there's no denying that it's worse then ever. WatchMojo presents the top 10 signs that climate change is worse than ever. Severe wildfires, melting glaciers and extreme weather rank amongst the top of these foreboding signs.

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The more things change... the more they keep changing. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Signs Climate Change Is Worse Than Ever.

For this list, we’re looking at the telltale signs that the climate on our planet isn’t what it used to be. Whether you believe it to be man-made, a natural cycle, or a mixture of both, there’s no denying that climate change is real.

#10: Rising Sea Levels

As is the case with many of today’s topics, rising sea levels are the result of multiple factors – both of which are rooted in rising temperatures. Perhaps the most obvious factor is the melting of glaciers, ice caps, and polar ice. Ice and snow reflect heat, meaning that as ice and snow melt away, less and less heat is reflected away, exacerbating the issue. The second factor is that water naturally expands as it warms past a certain temperature, meaning if water continues to warm, it continues to expand, and continues to rise. Current data shows a rise of 1/8 of an inch or 3mm per year, with a possible 6.6 foot/2m rise by the year 2100.

#9: Oceans Are Becoming More Acidic

Covering 70% of the surface of the Earth, our oceans are the largest natural carbon sink in the world – even compared to the rainforests. However, taking in that much carbon is problematic, as the addition of CO2 creates carbonic acid in the sea. Although not a rapid process, the acidity leads to less than comfortable living conditions for many marine animals – oysters and squid especially – and has a negative effect on coral’s ability to grow, and shellfish’s ability to produce new shells. Worse still, it’s yet another factor towards warming sea temperatures, and is harmful to sea life that produces dimethylsulphide or DMS, which provides cooling benefits when released into the atmosphere.

#8: Marine Wildlife Is Rapidly Declining

While fishing – or more bluntly, overfishing – is a contributing factor to the decline of marine life, it’s not the only one. Pollution – including the 250,000 metric tons of plastic found in our oceans – is clearly an issue, given that it’s both harmful to sea creatures and disrupts the natural food chain, but the biggest issue is climate change. Even a slight rise in water temperature can not only change currents and acidity levels, but will also cause fish to leave on the hunt for cooler waters, which then leaves their natural predators without a food source. Meanwhile, shoreline breeding grounds are natural CO2 traps, while creatures like phytoplankton are a leading producer of oxygen – and they’re all at risk.

#7: Weather Conditions are Shifting

Brutal winter storms – at least in North America – baffle many, but also fuel doubts of climate change deniers. But the fact is, changes in weather can run against expected logic and conventional wisdom. While one would assume a warmer planet would mean less snow, a rise of even 1°C means the atmosphere can hold 7% more water vapor. When warmer, moister Atlantic air meets cold, dry Arctic air, the conditions are perfect for a monster snowfall. However, in regions less than 3300 feet or 1000m above sea level, a warmer atmosphere translates in to a reduction of extreme snowfalls and a shorter snow season overall, with precipitation instead taking the form of rain.

#6: Temperatures Around the World are Increasing

As of 2016, ten of the warmest years on record had occurred since the year 2000, with 2016 itself being the warmest on record. Meanwhile, the last two decades of the 20th century were among the hottest in 400 years. Overall, temperatures are an average of 1.4°F, or 0.8°C, warmer than 1880, and they will only continue to climb. This, of course, means warmer oceans, which affects the ever-fragile coral reefs, and also contributes to the melting of polar ice caps, which itself contributes to increasing temperatures.

#5: CO2 Emissions Have Permanently Crossed a Threshold

September CO2 emission figures are used as an indicator of how good or bad things are, since that month comes at the end of summer and just before fall – at least in the Northern Hemisphere – so levels are at their lowest. However, September 2016 was the first time CO2 levels failed to drop below 400 parts per million – with 350PPM considered a safe level. Effectively, there’s more CO2 in the atmosphere than plant life and the oceans can manage, and the result is an increase in global temperatures and the subsequent repercussions. CO2 emissions have been on the rise since the Industrial Revolution began, and even if they were somehow magically halted, it’d still take decades to return to pre-industrial norms.

#4: Arctic Ice Is Disappearing

As of 2017, some scientists predict the Arctic could see an ice-free summer within 40 years. This, obviously, affects communities and wildlife in this region, and contributes to rising sea levels. Additionally, Arctic melting contributes to a rise in temperatures, creating a self-defeating negative cycle. This is down to the albedo effect: while ice and snow reflect much of the sun’s energy, exposed rock and soil absorbs it, and so the problem worsens. The end result is not only that the Arctic is warming; it’s warming at a faster rate than the rest of world, the effects of which will mean a change in ocean levels, temperatures, and possibly the Gulf Stream itself.

#3: Severe Wildfires

With rising temperatures, dry areas are only getting drier. Meanwhile, earlier spring snowmelts mean the soil is drier longer, all of which fuels the risk of a severe wildfire. Typically started by human interference, or natural causes like lightning, the likelihood of wildfires only increases as temperatures rise. Since the mid 1980s, wildfires have become more common in the American West, igniting four times as often, lasting five times as long, and destroying six times the acreage of a decade prior. Meanwhile, “wildfire season” is projected to increase, especially in the American Southwest where trends suggest it’ll lengthen from seven months to a year-round concern.

#2: Glaciers are Melting

A treasure trove of historical weather data, glaciers can be found on every continent except Australia, and from the tropics to the poles, but for how much longer is uncertain. The European Alps have seen their surface area decrease by as much as 40% since the 1850s, while Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro have both lost 60% of their ice cover in the last 100 years. The Peruvian Andes are also under threat, as are central Asian glaciers, which have been in retreat since the ‘50s. In fact, globally, there are very few exceptions to widespread glacial retreat. Of the projected increase in sea levels, as much as 30% can be attributed to mountain glaciers melting.

#1: Extreme Weather

From a steady rise in wildfires to increasingly hard-hitting snowfalls, instances of extreme weather are becoming more and more regular, which scientists state is consistent with a warming planet. Although there are many factors at play, direct connections can be made to climate change. In the U.S., the future is filled with heat waves, fewer cold waves, and depending on the region, an increase in droughts, wildfires, or floods. Winter storms have become more frequent and more devastating since 1950, while Atlantic hurricanes have increased steadily since 1980 – with trends predicting a ramp up of category four and five storms, and 20% more associated rainfall.